WELLINGTON, FL—April 18, 2016----Palm City Polo, with two up-and-coming teenagers, won the Season 11 Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) Finals Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In a thrilling championship final, Palm City Polo (Jaqui Casey, Hope Arellano, Tiffany Busch, Mili Galindo), leading for most of the game, defeated Scribble Horse Polo Team (Kathy Iverson, Katherine Roze, Courtney Asdourain, Kirstie Allen), 5-4.
Arellano, 13, the youngest player in the tournament, was named Most Valuable Player. The scrappy player scored one goal and was her team’s playmaker. Arellano is the daughter of Julio Arellano, one of America’s top players, who was her coach and spare holder.
“This was awesome, it was so much fun,” Arellano said. “I had an awesome team to play with in an awesome game. The winning was an extra bonus. It was very competitive. This was one of the best games I’ve ever been in.”
Arellano, who has been playing since she was 6, played all four of her horses in the tournament.
“They were all mine,” she said with a smile. “Some of them were hand-me-downs from my brothers. My dad and brothers have always encouraged me in the sport. It doesn’t matter that I am a girl. My goal is to be 10 goals when I’m older. I love everything about this sport.”
Arellano, who has competed in several Polo Training Foundation tournaments growing up, had played with Casey and Galindo but never Busch.
“She was amazing,” Arellano said. “She kept us all in order without a doubt.”
Rubi, owned and ridden by Busch, one of the sport’s top rated players at 7-goals, was selected Best Playing Pony. Busch led her team in scoring with four goals.
Asdourain, another top player rated at 6-goals, also scored four goals and brought her team within one goal in the fourth and final chukker.
In the consolation game, Catena USA (Malia Bryan, Belinda Brody, Cecelia Cochran, Leah Masters) defeated Creative Marketing (Lyndsay Dolan, Dawn Weber, Amanda Roberts, Ashley Mckenzie), 8-2. Catena USA scoring was balanced with each player scoring two goals.
Bryan, 15, was named Most Valuable Player. Her horse, Taba, a paint mare owned by Ricky Bostwick, was named Best Playing Pony. Bryan has been playing polo since she was 8. She also barrel races and is a show jumper. Her older brother Wes plays polo.
“This is fun, I like it,” Bryan said. “I have gotten a lot better especially this winter because I have played a lot more in different tournaments.
“The WCT is great to play in. It’s a great organization and they have great teams always with great girls and great outcome. I like playing against other women, it’s a little more evenly-balanced and always competitive. It’s our nature to be competitive. I feel it gives us a chance in a different element.”
For the second year in a row, the Sapphires (Jennifer Pascarelli, Riley Ganzi, Jaqui Casey, Jennifer Williams) won the fourth annual WCT Junior Invitational with a 2-0 victory over the Diamonds (Ava Rose Hinkson, Alyssa Tranchilla, Hannah Reynolds, Maureen Brennan) despite intermittent rain showers.
Ganzi and Casey, playing in her second game of the day, each scored one goal for the Sapphires.
The teams were coached by two of the sport’s all-time greatest players, WCT founder Sunny Hale (Sapphires) and Coca-Cola’s Gillian Johnston (Diamonds). Ganzi’s horse, Regalito, was named Best Playing Pony.
The only women’s polo event of its kind and largest polo league in the world has grown in popularity since its inception. The WCT Finals and adult and junior qualifiers have U.S. and international players with more than 20 qualifiers in the U.S. alone. Italy, Spain and Australia are the latest countries to express interest in WCT qualifiers. Two are expected to be held in Great Britain this year.
Hale, the first woman in U.S. history to win the U.S. Open in 2000 with Outback, is impressed by the caliber of play among women and juniors especially when she watches young players such as Arellano, Bryan and Ganzi, the future of women’s polo.
“Each year the quality of women’s polo gets better,” Hale said. “This junior game was a nice moving game and the 8-10 goal final was a fantastic game. The ball was really moving and they were running down the field making real classic plays.
“To see those young girls moving up is so exciting. This is the vision that I saw ten years ago. For me to watch it happening gave me chills especially the young girls stepping up in the adult bracket. The quality of polo they are going to play by the time they are 20 is going to be fantastic.”
Hale said Grand Champions Polo Club and President Melissa Ganzi has played an integral role in the WCT’s burgeoning success.
“What’s amazing about Grand Champions is that we are on the main field, main season during the U.S. Open,” Hale said. “In my day when I grew up, you were lucky if you got a practice field on Monday, maybe or maybe not and almost never a Sunday field. Grand Champions has supported us since Day One.”
Women’s and medium goal polo remain the largest growing sectors in polo, aided by the WCT Series founded in 2005 to help consolidate women’s polo and promote high quality competition throughout the world.
This year’s event supported awareness of the Jimmy Ryce Center and Be The Change Movement with Ted Ryce, the center’s director, who was among awards presenters during post-game ceremonies. The Jimmy Ryce Center donates bloodhounds to police enforcement to help find missing children in the U.S.
La Martina is the WCT’s official jersey supplier; Nano’s Polo Mallets is the official mallet supplier and Catena USA is the official timepiece of the WCT Finals, the official recognized event of the American Polo Horse Association. Grand Champions is the host polo club. Other sponsors are Designer Hair by Nikki, AutoMax Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram; and Frieda’s Sweets and Meats.
For more information on the WCT, go to www.wctwomenspolo.com.
The WCT Finals were live streamed by ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, April, Las Acacias
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions Cup
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
DIRECTOR OF POLO: Juan Olivera, 561-644-5050, juan.olivera @gcpolo.com; hotline 561-373-0073.
INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi and Flexjet. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes a complimentary Argentine asado by Cilantro’s during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.